This summer I went to Radiant’s Dog Show in Plymouth, and initially I had no idea what to think of it. Walking into the gallery after a long day at work, I was met by a lot of things I just wasn’t expecting. For example – a giant toy of a dog you could walk around on a lead; a dog tag attached to the wall at dog height, and some photos of supersized dogs next to their companions. Visiting on my own, I was slightly hesitant to put on the rubber dog masks in fear of looking extremely weird – but I did indulge in watching a remix of an Avicii video with dogs saving humans.
The exhibition looks at our relationship with man and woman’s best friend; designed and curated by a group of nine and ten-year-old children, Dog Show is the latest show created in collaboration with Plymouth based company Effervescent. Whilst I was a bit shocked by such wide open space, it was really intriguing to look closer, see the displays of art and what the very young curators had to say about them, and most importantly – take it all in.
The first pieces I saw was Mitch Boyer’s Big Viv. Mitch Boyer is a photographer, director and author working in Brooklyn, New York, currently working on a children’s book about Big Viv (www.mitchboyer.com). In front of me stood two photographs of a man with a ginormous daschund; extremely cute, the dog is still so sweet despite its huge size. I felt that the increased size of the dog made the relationship more ‘size equal’ and gave the dog a voice of sorts. I also really enjoyed how the dog took the sofa and the owner took the floor – after all, what’s art without a good role reversal?
“We like how the dog looks like she is leading her owner. She’s saying, “come on!” to the human, because he is texting and she really wants to meet another dog that she’s seen. The buildings are tiny in the background, and that emphasises how big the dog is. It makes her seem even bigger.”
“Daschunds are such a ridiculous shape; we worked with a miniature daschund called Beau on this show. These photos are lovely and silly. These pictures make us laugh, they make us feel happy.”
Georgia Elliot, age 10. Chloe Summer Mae Bailey, nearly 10.
“This is my favourite work in the show. Mitch’s dog is bigger than the other dogs. I like that because she is the boss of every dog. I like being the boss, too.”
Laurence Ryan Wolton Christoforu, age 10.
Reading the curator notes was really heartwarming; it simplified the art down to a child friendly level, with the basic ‘explanations’ not being overcomplicated or pretentious. It shows how children see our relationship with dogs and how they see the world, and how it relates back to them. It actually made me think on a bigger level, and I’m really glad that these children had the chance to express themselves on such a relatively big artistic platform.
I personally really enjoyed the dog tag that was installed onto the wall as part of the Dog Show exhibition; at first you’re wondering why there’s nothing on the wall, but once you look down you find what you’re looking for. In simple terms it reminds you that dogs are smaller than us, but no less important in terms of friendship.
“We’ve installed this at dog height to make you think of the dog that wears it. We know how it feels when a dog dies and it’s a terrible feeling; the worst thing. But this reminds us of dogs that have had a nice life: they are happy ghosts.” Georgia Elliott, age 10. Chloe Summer Mae Bailey, nearly 10.
Another special moment of the exhibition was Gary Wiggins’ A Momentary Lapse of Reason. His drawings of playful bulldogs are fantastic pieces of art themselves, but their child curator interpretations make them even more special. In the image you can see happy dogs playing around, but the interpretations remind you of just how important these images are.
Daniel Dobrisan, age 10 writes “we chose this work because we loved this happy beautiful playful bulldog. people think of bulldogs as grumpy and angry with six-packs, but this one just wants to be loved and have his tummy rubbed.” Laurence Ryan Wolton Christoforu, age 10 adds “we think this work is amazing; they are great drawings. It’s a really incredible level of detail. The detail makes it seem so real.”
If you’re in Plymouth this summer, I would seriously implore you to visit Dog Show. A family friendly show that will be enjoyed by both parents and children, it’s a day out that all the family can genuinely enjoy.
Dog Show is supported by Arts Council England, Plymouth University, and Plymouth City Council and runs from Thursday 21 July – Saturday 30 September, 2016. Opening times Mon-Sat 9am – late, Sun 11am – 5pm. Families, children and dogs welcome daily, entrance free of charge.